What I want for Christmas

I want to know greater and greater joy, that comes from being more and more in Jesus’ presence. Heaven rejoiced when Jesus was born, when the world went in darkness and ignorance. I want to have the same joy that the angels had on Christmas.

I want to be less selfish, especially if I’m deep in my own thoughts, where I’m prone to forgetting about the world. I want to be mindful of the needs around me, and not just know but also do — especially unto the people closest to me. To be full of grace and love towards all around me, the close and the far.

Peace on Earth, goodwill to Man.

Odd Apple in the electronics basket.

I was given an iPad Mini yesterday.

(It was a gift from the church ministry I’m part of. What an honour, and what a lovely surprise and blessing. A few months ago, I had been contemplating getting a tablet, but decided not to get one, for several reasons. Now I have a tablet! This is a good lesson: if God the Father is so good and loving to me that He will bless me with something that was just a frivolous desire, how much more will He provide for the greater needs in my life!)

My first Apple product owned. I won’t buy Apple products for practical and ideological reasons (yes, I’m one of those people — though I will recommend Macs to others), so amidst my ecosystem of Windows XP desktop, Android smartphone, B&N Nook e-reader, and Sandisk MP3 player, which have taken on the look of a charmingly haphazard, jumbled family that nevertheless can communicate with each other in UMS… iPad doesn’t fit in. (Well, maybe it will eventually. After all, the rest are all misfits too.)

What’s more, I’m at a bit of a loss to what to do with yet another mobile electronic device, especially an all-purpose one like iPad. That’s why I initially decided not to purchase a tablet for myself, because most of what I want to do on the go can be accomplished with my other devices. They’re all single-purpose devices — MP3 player for music, Nook for e-books, smartphone for everything else — but I like it that way. It keeps distractions away (as much as one with a smartphone can remain undistracted), and the computer is a superior multi-purpose device around, anyway.

So what can I do with my iPad? It would make a nice mobile recipe book. Perhaps I can start reading all my e-books here instead, and let go of the Nook. I can certainly play tablet-exclusive games that I’ve been eyeing — not that my computer isn’t a sufficient gaming device already! The smartphone already works very well on the go, so this will probably remain a stay-at-home device.

Heh, first-world problems. I’ll figure it out. I’m certain there will be a good use for it eventually — every good gift from God is meant to be used for his Kingdom too.

Update the next day: What about journalling? If I had a stylus… This sounds like a great idea.

Worlds within worlds.

The world is a fascinating place.

I’m discovering more and more that each entity in the universe is a whole world unto itself.

Today, I looked up the definition and origin of the word “carboy”, which we use in my workplace… and got lost in the world of bottles. There is a whole history behind the making, design and function of bottles… associated with bottles is industrial design, apothecaries, glass blowing… in the category of bottles there are carboys, jerry cans, demijohns, flasks, vials, phials, much more that I haven’t come across yet. People write books on bottles and search for rare ones. I’ve come across websites with collections of rare and found bottles on the Net.

The other day, on a whim I started reading about grass. The grasses are the most economically significant family of plants for civilization — all our cereals and grains are grasses. Grasses can thrive as lawns, or as tussocks/bunches. And that was just a little bit about what I learnt about grass.

On another day, I was reading about ants… did you know that legionary ants have no permanent nests, but form bivouacs and go on raids? Did you know that some ant species actually keep aphid “herds” in a mutualist relationship, and defend their herds from predatory ladybirds? And some members of honeypot ant species are living food storage for their colony?

And on yet another day, apropos the Homeworld Codex, I was reading about probability theory and vectors… mathematics is such a rarefied world. It’s cold and sterile and very lonely place. Numbers everywhere… no room for a living human body. But it’s unearthily beautiful nonetheless (or perhaps because of that). And it’s so easy to get lost in it.

If you delve deep enough into any entity, it becomes a whole world you can get lost in.

Didn’t C.S. Lewis say something like this in The Last Battle? God has made such a wonderful world, and humans have just made their own worlds within worlds.

That’s why we were made to live forever. Mortal lifetime is simply not long enough to explore all of these.

People who share my birthday.

A son of a close family friend, whom I’ve known since childhood.
A college buddy at university and a professional artist. We were born on the same day in the same year.
A businessman and volunteer at church.
A photographer who runs his small business in film photography.
An African lady who is also a photographer.
…Furthermore, the latter two are also in my Bible study group. So that makes three of us in one place.

Five people! This must be a record. Seems to be an auspicious day for creative folks.

Last night’s underwater dreaming.

I woke up in the middle of last night (a rare occurrence), and remembered a short dream.

I was playing a video game, or a spectator watching a game being played. The game was a spitting image of Ecco the Dolphin (which I’ve played): a side scroller with a dolphin character. But not identical: the graphics were different, and the gameplay involved more elaborate puzzle-solving. There was a goal to the level I was watching, but it escapes me.
This dream had some significance to me while I was dreaming it, but like most dreams, I forget the point upon waking. Perhaps it’ll come back.

I went back to sleep and spent the rest of the night dreaming more fragments, some decidedly weird, all of little consequence. There was one mini-dream about a small insect infestation in the corner of my bedroom, but every insect was different, and I could only kill the unimportant ones and had to spare the rare ones. Ugh — I was more disgusted with the tedium of it all, than of the squicky insects.

It troubles me that I remember the insects better than the dolphin game. But only a little. They are just dreams.

Voices from pages.

The last few months have been consumed with reading Patrick O’Brian. More recently, George MacDonald.

The first time, it took me 2 years to get from Master and Commander to The Reverse of the Medal (as recorded at Ath). This time, it took me 2 months to traverse the same route, and beyond. (Picking up Clarissa Oakes today, and I can see myself finishing the series in good time.) I’ve been averaging two days per book, so thoroughly have I been caught up in the music of O’Brian’s storytelling. There’s no other way to describe the language than “lyrical”. The series is a symphony, each book a variation on the theme of Jack and Stephen’s lifelong friendship. Secondary characters add their own themes, and become just as beloved as the two heroes. The series has everything that one could love in a fine saga: delightful, poignant, humourous (sometimes absurdly so), exciting and suspenseful and sometimes grim, predominantly lighthearted… Above all, musical, like the song of water running past the sailing Surprise.


Some years ago I fell in love with George MacDonald’s fantastical novels, Phantastes and Lilith, and have lately been reading his less-known works via Project Gutenberg. They are tales of Scotch and English country life in general, and people coming to faith in Jesus in particular. MacDonald’s portrayal of journeys to faith resonates strongly with me, because I myself have experienced some of those crises and doubts, and resultant growth towards God, and I fancy I see a bit of my own reflection in many of the characters’ struggles and victories. Didactism aside, MacDonald writes lovely stories. They are intimate and thoughtful, and draw from deep wells of sorrow and joy. I’ve read only a few novels so far — Thomas Wingfold, Curate and There and Back standing out most strongly — but they’ve already made a huge impression on me.

The stories may be intimate and personal, the characters portrayed in exquisite and loving detail, but the landscape in which they are set is vast as eternity. I cannot help but feel like a strong wind is blowing through the pages of MacDonald’s novels — felt it as early as Phantastes. This is the cold, implacable, primal wind that causes clouds to scud overhead; yet this same wind puts a hunger in me for something as wide and great as the trackless sky, a longing to reach and touch the cold and eternal stars far above who are so much closer to God. I daresay, this is the wind of the Holy Spirit breathing through MacDonald’s novels.

Between here and then.

Man, that last post was a downer. Have I always written such melancholy thoughts?

Probably so. I think the lighter thoughts aren’t making it. It’s clear that Velivolans v.2 is taking on a more serious tone than Velivolans v.1. The days of shooting the breeze in my blog are over: I no longer have much desire to write about miscellany and random thoughts as I did before. It could be that I just don’t think such thoughts anymore. Or if I do, they don’t feature enough on my consciousness that I’m driven to talk about it.

Or, I simply don’t want to share them with you. My relationship with you the audience has changed. It’s not personal. But the Net is no longer my place of confidence.

I had been speaking a lot in the years I did not blog. Speaking to a bodied, familiar audience is not at all like writing to a disembodied, anonymous audience. And that bodied audience has become more important when it comes to personal confidences. I’ve always said, I write more for release than for memory. Once I’ve exhaled those thoughts out of my system, that’s done, there’s no need to express them elsewhere. Most of the thoughts that were once shared in a blog have now been transferred to friends-in-body.

(Hm. In those years, I had also been dealing with — and overcoming — fragmentation of personality and continuity. I think this change of attitude towards blogging is an outcome of that. Well, good change, I say.)

I’m still figuring out where I want to take this blog. Writing in a public setting to a disembodied audience who has no continuity or relationship to my life doesn’t quite fit anymore. Perhaps like outgrowing a set of once-comfortable clothes. Even after writing the posts below, my words feel awkward and a bit clumsy. How did I write in the past? Where has that muse gone?

It appears that this blog is going to be an archive for those in-between thoughts. Thoughts worth recording, but not in my paper journal. Serious thoughts that I may not feel like sharing with friends-in-body. Book reviews and other such things that haven’t yet found a physical audience to hear.

I’m not sure how many light-hearted thoughts may make their way in here. Usually, those happy thoughts find an audience long before they get down to a blog. I may be thoughtful and melancholy, but I’m certainly not like that all the time. (Well fine, maybe I am most of the time, it’s just expressed differently. Hard to convey expressions in writing.)

Truth is, my life is happy. Has its ups and downs – whose doesn’t? – but it’s mostly upbeat and cheerful nowadays.

We’ll see where this blog experiment goes.

Lives in passing.

Now that I have close access to it, I’ve been reading the paper over lunch break. My current events feed has been entirely from the Net for a good number of years, and “reading the news” has always been my way of finding out what’s going on in the rest of the world beyond the borders of whichever state or nation I happen to be living in. (I wonder what it suggests about me, that I’m least interested in current events happening at closest proximity. Hmm, have to think about that.) While I’m glad that the local paper is able to fill in that neglect in my knowledge, I’m quite ambivalent about the current state of journalism. It is by turns monotonous and exasperating, and sometimes I feel justified in going on the Net for my current events. (But, another day for my thoughts on current events reporting.)

So I always end up in my favourite part of the newspaper: right at the back, in the obituaries. Continue reading Lives in passing.

One touch.

I’ve been learning a lot in faith lately.

One revelation that has been unfolding for the last couple months has been the love of Christ. The fierce, fiery, unrelenting, violently passionate, wholly possessive, willingly and joyously sacrificial, love of Christ for the Church his bride. This is no mere human love; this truly is divine love.

It is not a common revelation amongst Christians, even in most churches. Because it is not a comfortable revelation. It’s easy and relatively safe to contemplate a benevolent love, even a Fatherly love, for a measure of distance can be maintained. It is terrifying to imagine the passionate love of a lover for his dearly beloved. Because it renders your vulnerable, it strips you naked, it exposes everything in you. Who can face such intimacy without fear?

In this world of flagrant bodily exposure, the heart has never been more shielded. Small wonder that we shy away from the burning love of Christ. It turns the world upside down.

Oh, why remain in shallows of vapid love and meaningless sexual gestures? The deep is terrifying. The deep is exhilarating. Once you taste from the deep, nothing else will satisfy.

To go deep, you have to drown.

Jesus, for a moment you touched me that white-hot love, and I am irreparably scarred. That one draught will sustain me for forty days and forty nights; that one touch is enough to set my heart longing for your courts and your glory.

You said, I will fill your cup to overflowing. So Lord, pour it out.

Paean to the maiden city.

My church is reading the entire Bible through this year in personal devotionals/studies. I’m currently in the midst of the Psalms, which pass through my mind like water: refreshing, but so hard to grasp once it flows into the past. But one psalm stopped me in my tracks…

Psalm 87
A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. A Song.

On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
    the Lord loves the gates of Zion
    more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
Glorious things of you are spoken,
    O city of God.   Selah

Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
    behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—
    “This one was born there,” they say.
And of Zion it shall be said,
    “This one and that one were born in her”;
    for the Most High himself will establish her.
The Lord records as he registers the peoples,
    “This one was born there.”   Selah

Singers and dancers alike say,
    “All my springs are in you.”

Most of the Psalms, both petitions and praises, use rather concrete language that addresses their subject matters directly. So I paused at Psalm 87 because its language seemed a bit more oblique and metaphorical than the others. The subject is different too: instead of praising God, it praises Zion, the new Jerusalem, the City of God. The language is unusual, almost mysterious, and intimate in its mystery.

I wondered, What is so significant about being born in Zion? But I consider:

Hebrews 11:16—
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

I wondered about the last verse, which seemed such a cryptic ending. But then the answer came:

Psalm 46:4—
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.

Revelation 22:1—
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city…

One day the pilgrims will arrive at the New Jerusalem. One day the nations will say, This one is from the City of God. There they were born, born again.

Come to think of it, the city of God is constantly “anthromorphized” in the Bible. The bride of Christ, New Jerusalem. Hmm, how curious! This makes for a rather nifty world-building scenario…